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Soul Surfer Series Sermon 2
~The Epic Life~
Tyson Graber, Herscher Christian Church 
September 18, 2011

Matthew 14:22-36

 

Its amazing what Jesus can do!  I love studying these stories from the Bible and seeing the truth that a life with Jesus is not just about getting by or just surviving, but that life with Jesus is to be lived to the fullest.

 Last week we saw in our study that in Christ, we have been called live an Epic Life.

John 10:10

“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”

In Christ, we are called to live an abundant life - no matter what. Like Bethany Hamilton’s.

I have noticed some Epic lives among us lately:

Bill Taylor -  Full time fireman of almost 20 yrs, just ordained as minister of the Gospel, and looking forward to a new ministry.

Dustin Honn - New Christian, formerly played with bar bands, now Worship Leader at Herscher Christian Church

Emma Schafer - Volunteered to lead Bible Study Group in the Herscher Jr High Library.

An Epic life may not always seem special to begin with but the truth these Epic lives all have something in common and that is that a calling from Jesus to live a full or Epic life almost always leads us first out of our comfort zones.

I’m not just talking about a one-time calling where God invites you to join Him and then wishes you the best of luck. God is constantly giving you opportunities to take a step of faith and join Him in what He’s already doing here on earth. If you’ve ever looked up to someone spiritually, I promise you they didn’t get there overnight. Their spiritual maturity came from one ‘faith-step’ at a time and often these steps were taken during difficult circumstances.

Today, we’re going to look at another step of faith seen through the epic life of Simon.   Jesus saw so much potential in Simon that He changed his name to Peter, meaning “the rock.” Lets look at that literal big step of faith that Peter was willing to take for Christ.

Turn to Matthew 14:22-36

Notice the first line from this scene, “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat…”   I believe that Jesus knew a storm was coming that night, but He sent His disciples out on the lake in the boat anyway.  He knew he was about to put them in a situation that would test their faith.

In John 6 the same story is recorded and listen to what happens to them soon after they begin across the lake. 

Read John 6:18-21

 There is a prevalent lie out there that God just wants to keep you safe, but the truth is, oftentimes He will intentionally send you into risky situations so that He can grow your faith.

Sometimes, the center of God’s will isn’t the safest place to be; it can be the most dangerous.

In Mark’s account of this event, it actually says,  (Mark 6:48).

“He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost”
 
Did you catch the part where Jesus was about to 'pass by them?'

In the Old Testament there were moments when God passed by someone not to avoid them but to actually select them for His purpose.  He would pass by and take notice if they were ready to hear from Him.

  • (Exodus 33:22) God put Moses in a cleft in a rock so Moses could see His glory as He passed by. 
  • (1 Kings 19:11) God told Elijah to stand on the mountain for the Lord was about to pass by. 

In these examples, the person who saw God first felt afraid, but when they said yes to what God was asking, they saw something amazing happen.

Where might God be “passing by” in your world? Maybe He’s passing by your neighborhood, waiting to see if anyone will join Him in reaching your lost neighbors.  Maybe He’s passing by your home or office, seeing if there is anyone who wants to do something amazing.  He normally doesn’t announce his presence with loud trumpets, but He is definitely there looking forward to the moment you join with Him in His wonderful mission.

Notice Jesus’ timing in all of this. He came in the middle of a storm during the fourth watch of the night. The Israelites broke the night into four sections, the last one being 3:00–6:00 a.m. So this huge opportunity to see the power of God came to the disciples in the middle of the night, seemingly when they would least expect Him. 

God does the same in our lives. He often comes when we least expect Him. Maybe He’ll interrupt your lunch at work to encourage you to ask some lonely someone to lunch with you. Maybe He will wake you up in the middle of the night so you can groggily place your knees on the floor and be available to hear His voice. The point in our story is that Peter noticed Jesus at an unexpected time, and we need to do the same.

Just this week as I was studying for this sermon in a very unique place I wondered for a moment if God’s purpose was passing by around me. 

[Story of this week at the repair shop.] After meeting a stranger also waiting for his car to be serviced, he asked and found I was a minister.  “Just a man I need to talk with.” He had left his fellowship with God.  We left the shop and stood in the rain to discuss how God was ready for him to come home.

When you feel God tug at your hear to take a step of faith for Him.  Do it!  Don’t be afraid,  trust in Him.  You may be wondering if it is really God that wants you to do something good for a friend or neighbor, you may be wondering if it is really God that wants you to talk to your co-worker about Jesus.  Do you really have to wonder????
 
IT IS HIM!  DON’T BE AFRAID!!!  Take that step of faith and be blessed by being a blessing to others.

Amidst the storm and wind, many of the disciples were concerned about just trying to stay alive, but Peter recognized that this was a big moment.

“Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

Notice that Peter didn’t ask for a guarantee to be able to walk on water; he simply asked for the opportunity. Peter still had to step out of the boat, onto the water, but for him, the risk was worth it.

Amazing things happen when our prayers and pro-activity match up with God’s power.  Peter didn’t wait for Jesus to invite Him out of the boat; he asked himself. Peter didn’t wait for Jesus to confirm that everything would turn out OK; Peter just moved. When our prayers match our pro-activity, we will also see God’s power show up in our lives.
 
Bethany Hamilton didn’t always feel sure that God had a plan for her life. In fact, she and her family went through a season where they weren’t sure she would even be able to surf again. Watch this video clip in which Bethany deals with what her life will be like with only one arm.

[Play the “One Arm, Now What?” video clip in the Week Two folder]

Bethany Hamilton didn’t just pray that she could surf again and then do nothing; she spent countless hours pro-actively learning how to get up on the board with one arm. When she did, God answered her prayer to reveal His purpose for her life: for her to be an inspiration to people throughout the world.
 
What does this principle look like in your life? Where do you need to just “get out of the boat” and take a step of faith?  Maybe it is exactly in that area of your life where you feel limited.  That may be where God can and will use you the most so that your success will point to Him.

It’s less than one verse in the passage, but we know for certain that Peter actually walks on water!   Can you just imagine what was going through his head as he stepped out of the boat?  No matter how long it lasted, this one experience was one that Peter would remember for the rest of his life. How many times must he have shared that story with people?
 
There is nothing like a walk-on-water experience. You can see people all over the Bible who prayed and pro-actively moved and then got to experience firsthand God’s power moving through them.


o Moses prayed and then saw the Red Sea open up as he jammed his staff into the sand.
o Elijah prayed and then saw his water-drenched sacrifice get consumed by fire in front of hundreds of angry Baal-worshipers.
o Gideon prayed and then invaded the 135,000 member Midianite army with only 300 men.
o Daniel prayed and then got down into the lion’s den for a sleep over.

All of these men first needed to take a radical step of faith before they saw God’s power.

 

o Moses left his comfortable life in the desert to take on Pharaoh, the most powerful man on earth at the time.
o Elijah picked a fight with the whole nation of Israel.
o Gideon told 99% of his army to go home just before going to battle.
o Daniel refused to stop praying in public, even though it was against the law.

In our passage, it would have been nice for Peter if the event ended with him walking on water, but then Matthew 14:30 comes.

“But when he [Peter] saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’”

 The moment Peter took his eyes off his Savior and focused on the storm, he began to sink. Remember, Peter was already walking on water when he became overwhelmed by the storm. He should have known better, but fear is not something that will ever leave you. That’s why the most frequent command in all of scripture is the two simple words, “Fear not!” Almost every time God uses this command, it’s to lead people into something even scarier.
You might be thinking, “But, Tyson, every day right now there is something in my life that brings me fear.”  God would have you know that everyday He is saying “FEAR NOT!”  In fact, I don’t find it to be a coincidence that the Bible says “FEAR NOT”, 365 times, one for every day of the year.

The truth is, fear will sink us faster than anything else in life.

2 Timothy 1:7 says,

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

If you’re a Christian, then it’s not a matter of psyching yourself up, but simply reminding yourself that He who is in you is more powerful than any circumstance you’re facing.

The text says, “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.”
 
I don’t know how far away Jesus was from Peter when he began to sink. At any rate, Jesus didn’t let Peter go under for even a few seconds. He let Peter know He was with him the moment he began to go down.

This verse should be extremely comforting to each of us.  Even when Peter took his eyes off Jesus, Jesus never took His eyes off Peter. The same is true for you. Even when you allow fears from inside your brain or from outside circumstances to overwhelm you … Jesus is near. He won’t let you drown. I wonder if, for Peter, the feeling of Jesus pulling him up out of the water was just as powerful as the feeling of walking on it.

The next words out of Jesus’ mouth seem like a rebuke: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”  It makes you want to ask the question, “Did Peter fail?” It would be easy to point the finger at Peter for taking his focus off Jesus, but I don’t think Jesus saw it that way.  Peter was the only one who had the faith and courage to get out and try.

The other eleven disciples never even overcame their fear to leave their seats in the boat. Their fear so overwhelmed them that they were hardly mentioned in the event. Peter was the only one who got to experience the joy of walking on water. Peter was the only one who experienced the glory of being lifted up by Jesus in his desperate time of need. Remember this truth today.

If you are going to walk on water, you have to first step out of the boat.

Failure is not an event, but a judgment about an event. It’s the way we think about an outcome. Failure doesn’t shape you; the way you respond to failure shapes you. For example, in Soul Surfer, no matter how many times Bethany fell off the board, she would not give up. Failure was not falling off the board; failure would have been giving up. And because she persevered, she grew incredibly as a person.

The same is true with you. The more you get out of the boat in life and face your fears, the better the chance of falling. But don’t see each fall as a failure; see it as an opportunity to grow. I promise you, at some point in your life you will actually look back at the moments you had been unsuccessful and realize that those were the same moments you grew the most and were closest to Jesus. No one is more concerned with you growing into the person you were meant to be than Him. It was Peter’s willingness to risk failure that helped him grow.

 Hebrews 11:6, the author says,

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

This statement makes sense: We can’t please God unless we have a level of faith. Is the reverse of this statement true, as well: “With faith, it is impossible to disappoint God”?
 
We can so easily stress over what is and isn’t the will of God for our lives that it freezes us from actually ever doing anything. What if God is always pleased with our steps of faith, even when they are not perfect?

As a father, I love it when my sons make me gifts for my birthday or Christmas. One thing I love about them is that they are often very unique, but in the world’s eyes they are often far from perfect.  I would never look at one of their drawings or creations and point out all the places where they went outside of the lines or suggest that he should have used different colors to make it more seasonally appropriate. If my boys try to please me with a gift and they pour their heart into it, then there is no way that I would ever be disappointed.

I wonder if sometimes God looks down at some of our endeavors and laughs to Himself, “No, that wasn’t really what I had in mind, but I’m just so proud of you for trying.”
 
In 2 Thessalonians 1:11, Paul says,

“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.”

God wants to fulfill our good purposes when they are meant to bring Him glory.

So, what are the fears that keep you in the boat?  Maybe it’s the fear of being rejected.  Maybe it’s the fear of not being good enough. Maybe it’s the fear of failure. Maybe it’s the fear of getting hurt or being betrayed. What tragedy has God allowed our nation to endure to draw us back to Him.  What storm has God placed you in to allow your faith to grow?  What storm has God allowed this church to be in to place us in a position to grow our faith in Him?

At this present time it has become clear to the Elders and myself that we are in a financial storm as a church family.  How will we respond?  Let me remind you that God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

[Explain the situation.]

Get used to saying prayers like these: 


o “God, I can’t take this risk…but you can through me.”
o “God, I can’t share my faith with others…but you can through me.”
o “God, I can’t stand up for anyone…but you can through me.”
o “God, I can’t get through this stressful situation…but you can through me.”
o “God, I can’t _______...but you can through me.”

God wants to live an epic story through you. In order for that to happen, you will have to take the risk, move out of the boat, and trust Jesus every step of the way. I know it’s scary, but I promise you that there is no greater feeling.